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The 2009 Journey to India Begins...

We start in Mumbai. Then we fly to Chennai and a driver takes us the three hours south to Pondicherry (Puducherry). Here we'll spend the next 2 weeks exploring the nearby sites of Pondicherry, Auroville, Chidambaram and Tiruvannamalai before returning to Mumbai and meeting up with our meditation teacher Mark Griffin and the rest of our friends. From Mumbai we'll board a bus and travel the 2 hours north to Nimboli, home of Fire Mountain Retreat.

We were scheduled to leave Los Angeles on Feb. 2nd and fly on British Airways to Delhi via a short stopover in London. Just as we were about to leave for the airport, our friend Lee emailed us asking us if we knew that Heathrow was closed for the first time in 18 years due to snow. Is that why the airlines asks for a contact phone number and email? Except in this case, they never called or let us know of the cancelled flight. And when we called them, they told us that they couldn't put us on a flight until 4 days later. Never mind that!

We moved into "gotta change this" mode, and luckily we were able to rebook our flight on Delta via Atlanta. This only resulted in a one day delay and off we went from LAX to Atlanta and then nonstop Atlanta to Mumbai. Ever wonder how a jet 777 can stay in the air for almost 15 hours? It used 33,849 gallons of fuel.

plane route

And lucky for us, the plane was almost empty, so we each had our own glorious row.

on board

But everything changed as soon as we took off. The flight took on Bollywood overtones. We had a SCREAMING 6 month old little Indian baby on board our flight from LA to Atlanta with her mother and grandmother and then from Atlanta to Mumbai, the mother was not with the baby. She was sending her baby back to Mumbai with the grandmother for at least 6 months. That baby screamed and screamed and every Indian woman on the flight tried to console her to no avail. We saw every rocking technique ever invented. In between consoling the baby, these mothers gathered in the aisle right next to our seats and said very bad things about the poor mother who would abandon her child for such a long journey. So even though the baby was no longer keeping us awake, now the other women were as they discussed the state of this little girl. Here she is in her 5 minute quiet stage in between screams...

baby

Finally, after hours and hours of screaming, she quieted down, exhausted, and at that time the Indian woman seated behind us discovered that in the chaos she had lost her wedding ring. So on went the lights and the frantic searching down everyone's row and under everyone's seat. More Bollywood drama! And guess who finally found it? That would be me, EJ, - "Supreme Finder" - it was under the seat cushion (not on the floor) of her middle seat where she hadn't even been sitting. Yikes! I was the hero. Welcome to India! - Chaos-stan.

Arriving in Mumbai, there was heightened security at the airport with multiple check points. The good part was that they've streamlined their taxi debacle from last year, so we were not assaulted by taxi drivers screaming for our business the minute we left the airport.

We arrived at the Royal Meridien in Mumbai for a delicious one night stop over. The security was amazing here too. It was put in effect after the horrible violence from December. All of Mumbai is on alert now. There was a checkpoint before entering the driveway of the hotel, then a metal detector walk-through, then a search of our hand luggage by a woman guard, who also ran a metal detector over our bodies. We managed to sleep about 6 hours our first night and that was good. We're 13.5 hours ahead of the U.S. Our Thursday morning is your Wednesday night.

We liked opening up our desk drawer and finding a copy of the Bhagavad Gita next to the Holy Bible...

Gita & Bible
The adventure continues today as we get ready to fly to Chennai and then be driven to Pondicherry, our next stop. We were hoping the meditation retreat could be moved here to the 5 star Meridien. Robes, soft glorious sheets and rubber duckies in the tub. Ah, India, here we come...
Rubber Duckies
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